Before the 2016-17 season even begins, Arkansas basketball received a maximum amount of good news.
All three of its basketball commits in the Class of 2017 will sign during the NCAA’s early signing period this week. Doing so locks up the No. 19 recruiting class in the country for Mike Anderson and his staff and allows Arkansas to focus more heavily on the 2016-17 season. The Razorbacks hope to make a return to the NCAA Tournament.
The class is, on paper, even better than the one Anderson pulled last year when the Razorbacks ranked 29th. Here is a brief overview on each of the three expected signees.
Khalil Garland, Parkview (Little Rock)
6-6, 195 pounds
National rank: 127, State rank: 2
Garland has lots in common with a guard already on Arkansas’ roster. He goes to the same high school Razorbacks junior Daryl Macon attended, Little Rock Parkview, a perennial power in Arkansas high school basketball.
And like Macon, Garland is a combo guard. His size and skill set makes him more of slasher than a ball-handler and shooter, probably. He’s also capable of running the show from the point, although it’s hard to envision a scenario he does often. His best trait is his speed, as his preference is the up-and-down style Anderson has brought back to Arkansas.
ESPN recruiting rankings have him as the No. 55 player in the country, so it’s possible, if not likely, he outplays his 247 Sports Composite ranking (which is what is listed above and on all the players subsequently). So Arkansas pulled quite the coup when it flipped him from Memphis in July. Garland de-committed from the Tigers, who play in the city where Garland plays AAU ball, when Josh Pastner left Memphis for Georgia Tech. Arkansas was the next natural landing spot.
Darious Hall, Mills (Little Rock)
6-6, 210 pounds
National rank: 262, State rank: 4
Hall’s story is quite a bit different than Garland’s. The two are longtime pals, going back to the seventh grade, but Hall was going to be a Razorbacks basketballer no matter what, as long as he received the offer. He committed the day after Anderson offered him a scholarship in March and is a longtime Razorbacks fan, so his choice was easy.
Despite being a similar size on paper as his buddy Garland, Hall is natural forward. Some sites have him listed at 6-7 instead of 6-6 and Garland himself said Hall is the bigger guy. Basically, he’s an old-school three. The best thing about him, and what Anderson has to love, is his defense. Hall is one of the few guys who when they say they can guard all five spots on the floor, he’s right.
Now, he probably shouldn’t be guarding a lot of 6-10, 6-11 guys at the college level, but he could in a pinch. His preference is still to get to the inside on the glass, shoot an outlet pass and get the team moving. As for offense, he has some mid-range to his game, but his shot from the perimeter hasn’t fully developed. Of course, like most everyone else brought to Arkansas under Anderson’s watch, that shouldn’t be a problem over time. Even Manny Watkins has developed some offense since arriving. And to be honest, Hall is a lot like Watkins, but a touch bigger and with even more potential.
Daniel Gafford, El Dorado
6-9, 217 pounds
National rank: 36, State rank: 1
Gafford has been the longest-standing commit, having been firm with Arkansas since August of last year. He’s also the highest-upside player and rawest of the three.
Gafford has only been playing basketball for a few years, but he is such a freak athletically, he found the game a natural fit. His profile blew up two summers ago on the AAU circuit and after he attended Arkansas’ basketball camp, Anderson and the team took notice and wasted no time. This summer, Gafford — and Garland — went to the Nike Academy in Los Angeles to work against the rest of the elite in the recruiting class.
Despite his ranking, Gafford is a work in progress. He’s super skinny and he won’t tower over opponents like he does in high school. But he’s a tireless worker, excellent shot-blocker and can run the floor as good as any high school big in the country. Basically, he’s Moses Kingsley when Kingsley came out and in case you forgot, Kingsley is the preseason SEC Player of the Year.
Other Potential Signees
Arkansas basketball still has a scholarship available in 2017 as the team loses three seniors. The only player currently on the roster not under scholarship is RJ Glasper. Anderson could choose to give him a scholarship, hold the scholarship back completely — as he’s doing this year so far — or give it to another yet-unknown recruit next season.
For now, though, Arkansas went after three big fish and caught them all. And that quickly.